Stores On Wheels Startup Robomart Gains Momentum With Unilever Partnership
A different kind of mobile ice cream shop will begin rolling through parts of Los Angeles next month thanks to a partnership between store-hailing startup Robomart and consumer goods giant Unilever.
Robomart’s aim is to make getting a delivery from a store as easy as calling an Uber
The Robomart-Unilever vans will be decorated with signage for The Ice Cream Shop, a virtual storefront Unilever created to make it easier for consumers to order its ice cream brands from delivery services like Uber Eats and Grubhub
The Robomart vans have drivers, but consumers can open the van door, select an item, and pay with a smartphone app, without having to interact with the driver.
“The real beauty of our model of store-hailing is that you don’t have to spend time creating a basket, you don’t have to hunt for a specific item,” said Ali Ahmed, Robomart CEO and co-founder. “You tap a button to hail that store to come to you.”
The company’s checkout system uses RFID to track products that a customer removes from the van. “You literally just grab the products you want and walk away,” Ahmed said.
Robomart was founded in 2017 and it launched its first delivery vans in West Hollywood and Hollywood a year ago. The Ice Cream Shop vans also will deliver in West Hollywood and Hollywood.
Earlier this year Robomart was granted a patent for its one-tap store hailing and checkout free technology. The company promises that its vans can deliver products in as little as two minutes, with a much easier ordering experience for the consumer.
Robomart has received seed funding from accelerator and incubator programs and early stage investors.
The Unilever partnership could pave the way for more Robomart collaborations with major brands and retail chains.
Ahmed, who founded the company with Emad Suhail Rahim, Chief Strategy Officer, and Tigran Shahverdyan, Chief Technology Officer, said the company has seen increased interest in the vans from brands and retailers over the past few months.
The company has signed close to 100 bookings for Robomart vans, from merchants ranging from local coffee shops and cafes, convenience stores, and ready-to-eat prepared meals businesses, Ahmed said.
The merchants own the inventory and already have their own storefronts, either online or physical locations. Robomart lets them add a mobile option to their existing operations, Ahmed said. “We can work with retailers, CPG companies, and even brands so long as they have their own dedicated storefront,” he said.
Robomart had a booth in the innovation lab exhibit at the National Retail Federation convention in January. Press coverage from that appearance generated inquiries from brands, including Unilever, Ahmed said.
“We continue to get a ton of really great inbound interest from merchants and retailers,” he said.
The partnership with Unilever is a pilot program.
Unilever sees Robomart as “a new way to bring our virtual store, The Ice Cream Shop, to fans in Los Angeles in an innovative way,” said Russel Lilly, General manager, Unilever North American Ice Cream, in comments made when the partnership was announced.
The Robomart partnership “is revolutionizing ice cream delivery for consumers,” Lilly said. “What better way to shop for your favorite ice cream than just a few steps from your front door?”
Consumers who download the Robomart app can summon the ice cream van to their home, tap to open the van door to reveal the ice cream cases, make a selection, and have the payment automatically processed on their phone.
Robomart, in effect, is providing the technology that allows brands and merchants to create a mobile store, Ahmed said.
“We are the platform for enabling this new experience, of being able to hail a mobile store and being able to shop right at your doorstep in as little as two minutes,” Ahmed said.
The Ice Cream Shop vans are scheduled to start rolling in time for National Ice Cream Day, July 17.